This morning, the Outdoor Industry Association released its final report on the economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry. Good news and bad: the good news is that outdoor recreation is a huge economic driver in the U.S.; bad news is that we’re under-represented, under-organized, and punching below our weight when it comes to pushing policy. Case in point: today’s announcement that the Department of Interior will be reexamining 30 national monuments consisting of over 100,000 acres protected by presidents from both parties over the last 20 years.
Outdoor recreation has a huge impact on our economy. Overall consumer spending tops $887 billion annually. We generate $125.4 billion in tax revenue between federal and state governments. And we support 7.6 million local, American jobs. For comparison, the coal industry employs about 7 million people worldwide. And, remember that coal is a larger segment of energy generation in developing countries than it is here. Last estimates show that there are about 174,000 coal jobs in the U.S.
Outdoor recreation beats out some surprising industries when it comes to employment statistics. We almost double the food and beverage service industry. We beat out construction and IT/computer services.
And there are intangible benefits to the outdoor rec industry that don’t have corollaries in other industries. Participation in outdoor recreation has been shown to increase wellbeing in veterans with PTSD. Playing outside decreases symptoms in kids with diagnosed ADHD. Moderate outdoor activity lowers health care costs for and mitigates chronic conditions in retirees. These results aren’t quantified in the economic impact of the industry, but they are benefits nevertheless.
Check out the full report, available for download at OIA’s website. Each of the statistics are cited. You can look at case studies and see how the broad economic impacts of the outdoor recreation industry break down across geographical regions. It might surprise you to learn that outdoor rec in the South Atlantic region (WV, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, and FL) has a greater economic impact and supports more jobs than in any other region, even the mountain states and Pacific region.
Consider the long term, again, in light of today’s announcement about our national monuments. We, as a nation, could remove those protections in pursuit of short-term profit and support of a few thousand energy extraction jobs in a dying industry, destroying the land for generations and eliminating any future economic benefit from its use. Or, we could support using the land in a sustainable manner, promote a growing industry that has larger and broader economic impact, and maintain that growth and use for decades to come. I know which side I’m on.
If you want to make your voice heard, you can contact your congressional representative and senators via Facebook or find contact info for your federal and state representatives and senators with this USA.gov tool.